Six reasons to love caffeine

Young woman using smart phone and laptop with cup of coffee in cafeDo you enjoy a cup of joe every morning? Who doesn’t, right? Turns out caffeine is more than an elixir of energy found in most American households. There are many health benefits to caffeine that go beyond waking you up. Here’s a look at a few of them, according to experts and the findings of research:

1. Aids in focus and mental clarity.
There’s a reason you feel more alert after a few sips and it’s because of a hormonal surge. That’s because caffeine activates the pituitary gland to make adrenaline, also known as the “fight or flight” chemical.

There’s also a feel-good component to it. Caffeine indirectly stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA which are known to help attention and focus, making it easier to tackle your to-do list. Huzzah!

2. Boosts immunity.
Caffeine’s properties help enhance our antioxidant defenses, which in turn, promote whole-body health. There’s even evidence that suggests that caffeine can give the skin a pick-me-up and delay signs of aging.

3. Promotes optimal brain health.
Could your morning cup be good for your noggin? Caffeine reduces neural pathways and protects neurons, ultimately giving your brain a boost.

Caffeine packs a mean punch when it comes to brain benefits. It has a natural ability to sustain attention, improve alertness, help you find creative solutions, foster mental alertness and even boost mood.

4. Enhances exercise performance.
Whether you’re going for a morning run or trying to get amped before lifting, caffeine is an invigorating substance that can elevate your routine, elicit physical energy and optimize performance.

Again, you can thank science for surpassing personal records at the gym. Caffeine activates neural pathways and by proxy, the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a powerful drug when trying to hit a new level of physical performance.

We mentioned coffee but other beverages and foods contain this health-promoting substance, too. That’s good news for people who can’t stand the acid in coffee or just enjoy the variety of tea.

There are other factors at play, too, that can influence how much caffeine is in your cup. Preparation technique and brewing time are two. As it relates to coffee, the caffeine content depends on how long the beans have been roasted. Light roasts have more caffeine than dark ones. Similarly, the longer black tea leaves are steeped, the more caffeine your tea will have.

5. Can help promote a healthy weight.
Could your morning routine help you enjoy a smaller waist? According to some research, coffee could help in the way of decreasing fat storage and supporting gut health, both of which may be beneficial for weight management. There’s also evidence that caffeine can result in lower body fat in both men and women. Good news for people looking to get into their skinny jeans.

6. Extends lifespan.
Recent studies found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from some of the leading causes of death in women: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

Caffeine is not relegated to the coffee or tea aisle either. Do you enjoy some dark chocolate as an after-dinner treat? What about java-flavored ice cream? Chocolate-covered espresso beans? Those can perk you up as well.

If you’re curious about the caffeine contents of other foods and drinks, here’s a breakdown:

  • Brewed coffee (8 ounces): 96 milligrams
  • Instant coffee (8 ounces): 62 milligrams
  • Espresso (1 ounce): 64 milligrams
  • Brewed black tea (8 ounces): 47 milligrams
  • Brewed green tea (8 ounces): 28 milligrams
  • Dark chocolate (1 ounce): 23 milligrams
  • Semisweet chocolate chips (1 ounce, or 60 pieces): 18 milligrams

It should be mentioned that you can consume caffeine in supplements, either on their own or combined with other ingredients. But a word of caution: Just like with the food and beverage sources of caffeine listed above, it’s also important to carefully consider your caffeine quota when ingested this way. You don’t want to overdo it or else you might risk-averse side effects like jitters, sleep issues, upset stomach and other counterindications. In other words, it’s important to know your limits. Some people are more tolerant of caffeine than others. Pregnant women will need to limit their intake.

As you learned above, caffeine certainly has a place at the table but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for some guidance on boosting energy naturally or concerned that you’re depending too much on caffeine to get through the day, we can help. Integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances.

If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers, that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003and breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re closer to living a fuller life.

An inside look at chiropractic care and how it can help

Chiropractic care is a drug-free iteration of healthcare that can help you reach your highest level of wellness. While the treatment method is more accessible than it once was, many aren’t clear on the true benefits that you can enjoy when you work with a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Close up Male neurologist doctor examines cervical vertebrae of female patient spinal column in medical clinic. Neurological physical examination. Osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy.

Chiropractic care adopts a total-body approach to healing, allowing you to have a more comprehensive healing process for your health journey — working to address the underlying ailments disrupting your day-to-day life. In this blog, we provide a little more insight into what chiropractic care is and how it can help.

What is chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care is a safe and effective method of care that relies on spinal manipulation and other related techniques to address neuromusculoskeletal complaints. Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are trained to address the root cause of the health problem and rely on a more “whole” approach to your wellbeing. Rather than treat the symptoms, you can expect a more comprehensive care experience as they work to assess the state of your health.

What can doctors of chiropractic do?

Doctors of chiropractic (DC) are physicians. They specialize in the treatment and management of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Your doctor of chiropractic (DC) has gone through a minimum of seven years of higher education and can successfully navigate your medical care no matter how complex it may be. Chiropractic care involves manipulation techniques while keeping the end goal in mind ⁠— total health and wellness.

What conditions can chiropractic care assist with?

There are two main categories of conditions that chiropractic care can address ⁠— acute and chronic.

Acute conditions can represent an initial injury, such as a car accident or trauma. It can also apply to a sudden onset of symptom presentation, even if there was no trauma to precipitate the disruption. Chronic conditions are ongoing conditions that may be attested to chronic illness. In either case, your doctor of chiropractic can assist you in creating a comprehensive care plan that addresses your symptoms, diagnosis and future health.

Adding chiropractic care can help with many aliments. It’s not a substitute for total care but is a great supplemental option. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how it could benefit you.

What chronic stress does to the body

designer argue with contractor on cellphoneStress. Just hearing the word might be enough to make your jaw clench up. But stress in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You might be surprised to learn that stress has been the force behind much of human advancement. But when stress becomes a frequent occurrence, our lives can suffer. That’s because stress can put a damper on our moods and our ability to think clearly. It can also weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness. And being sick can only add to the pressure.

Let’s look at this phenomenon and explore some ways to manage stress:

Stress and immunity
Chronic stress means the nutrients needed to meet the demands of stress— for example, B vitamins— may become depleted. High cortisol levels may also reduce the presence of immune cells that limit the spread of certain viruses and tumors.

Stress and cardiovascular health
The stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. Studies show that chronically high cortisol levels of certain markers can increase your risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

Stress and the gastrointestinal system
Chronic stress may also adversely affect your gastrointestinal system by either delaying or speeding up digestive processes. To that end, you might experience heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or belly pain. Even worse, chronic stress can trigger gastrointestinal inflammation and may be linked to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Stress and diabetes
Stress can cause flare-ups of a pre-existing medical condition. For instance, people with diabetes are significantly affected by stress. That’s because physical or psychological stressors can inhibit insulin production, leading to complications. Unmanaged diabetes can be life-threatening so it’s something you don’t want to minimize.

Stress and inflammation
Do you feel like your allergies get worse when you’re frazzled? It’s not all in your head. Those suffering from asthma and allergies may also be more susceptible to attacks following a trigger. What’s more, researchers have found a link between stress and atopic dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition), nasal congestion and asthma.

Stress and reproductive system
Chronic stress can mean missed or late periods, infertility and a drop in sexual desire. Some women find that their PMS or menopause symptoms are worse when they’re dealing with bouts of high stress. Excess amounts of cortisol in men can affect the normal biochemical functioning of their reproductive systems.

Managing stress
Stress is a part of life, but too much can wear on you and mean illness and disease if left unchecked. That’s why it’s important to have coping mechanisms in place to manage stress.

That said, the following strategies may be helpful for reducing stress levels:

Here are a few proven techniques to feel more grounded:

1) Breathwork: Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself falling into negative thought patterns. There’s a lot to be said for learning how to work with your breathing to settle your nervous system.

2) Massage: Science tells us that the state of the mind and nervous system is reflected in the state of the body. That’s why bodywork is one means to help the body reset. Some kinds of massage are more relaxing than others. For instance, a medical massage usually involves therapeutic techniques. It’s often used to manage pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, relieve nerve compression, improve digestion, increase flexibility or address other chronic concerns.

3) Visualization and guided imagery: Visualization and guided imagery work because they have you concentrate on images held in your mind and work with the connection between the brain and the physical body. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and picture yourself in a situation that brings you joy. Try to make the image bright and clear in your mind’s eye and recall the sights, sounds, smells and feelings associated with that encounter. How long you focus on it is less important than how regularly you do it. A few minutes every day practicing your visualization will serve you better than devoting a few hours on occasion.

4) Meditation: Researchers have come to the conclusion that controlling blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rate, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response. If you want to give meditation a shot, look for a type that feels natural – one that suits you and your lifestyle. Keep in mind that all forms of meditation require regular, daily practice over a long period of time before you notice considerable results. Try to meditate every day for 20 to 30 minutes to get into the habit.

These are just a few ideas. You might find that integrating some or all of these into your daily routine might bear fruit. Speak with your integrative healthcare practitioner if you’re feeling like you need some help in addressing chronic stress and its effects.

Not all supplements are created equal

For many of us, supplements are part of our daily routine. Many of us are regular takers of vitamins, minerals, and other types of supplements. Vitamins and minerals are essential to developing and maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle. Most individuals get the majority of their vitamins from healthy eating, but certain vitamin deficiencies can be common and that’s when a little extra boost is helpful. Taking daily supplements can provide your body with this support. 47895081_M

But not all supplements are created equal. Rather than go all-in on a supplement, it is important to do the proper research to determine if the supplement is even good for you.

There are also literally thousands of supplements available on the market, from multivitamins to omega fats, minerals, and nutrient supplements of a nearly countless variety. So what should you look for when deciding on a supplement?

Here’s a quick guide on picking the best options.


Your biochemistry plays a critical role in whether a supplement is necessary. Supplements are designed to provide something that might be lacking, or even to double down on a standard amount you already take. Take B vitamins, for example. If your body has a problem with methylation, there might be a need to take activated B vitamins.

So the first step is to know what your body is lacking. There are some common vitamins that people tend to have a deficiency in. These include vitamin B, D and iron. But everybody is different.

Functional medicine practitioners can help with genetic tests to determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies and if your body has any problems processing specific nutrients.


The old ethos of quality over quantity holds true in supplements. You can swallow a handful of supplements every day, but if you are taking poorly made, unproven supplements, not designed to work with your biochemistry, you’re running in place. With so many supplements on the market, it can be confusing trying to figure out what is right for you.

And supplements aren’t regulated in the same way that medicines are. That’s why it’s essential to find a brand that does independent testing and is trusted by industry professionals.

That’s where we come in. We have the inside scoop on the most effective and potent supplements to make sure you’re never taking something that’s unsafe or poorly made.

We proudly advise our patients on the good and bad regarding supplements. Stay healthy the right way, without taking wild guesses about which supplements are right for you. We’re waiting for your call.

Supercharge your diet with superfoods

27910796_MSuperfoods have been a darling of the nutritional community for several years now, but what exactly about them makes them special, and which foods make the list?

According to functional medicine experts, this class of foods is embraced for its myriad of health benefits. The term is fairly broad but refers to the nutritional value of certain whole foods.

Superfoods are a diverse group of nutrient-rich natural foods, which can have a positive effect on your body. They’re favored because they contain a large percentage of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants to fuel your body with extra energy and healing. Superfoods don’t need to be exotic and can be relatively affordable.

For instance, berries, leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, yogurt and whole grains make the list of benevolent edibles. But don’t be afraid to break out of the box — and your comfort zone at the same time to nourish your body with these powerhouse foods.

Where to begin? Try combining cacao and stevia into a chocolate smoothie or give your skin a boost by making a drink with acai or spirulina to aid your body in releasing toxins. Consider adding chia seeds or flax seeds to oatmeal, or bread to get more omega 3’s and fiber.

Other superfoods you might consider adding to your shopping list include:

Berries: These are quite the rock star of the fruit world. High in fiber, rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, they may help stave off diseases like dementia.

Nuts and seeds: Need an easy and healthy snack? They have protein and fiber, and can make you feel full. Walnuts, flax meal and chia seeds all contain ALA omega-3 fats, which are converted to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Regular intake of omega-3 fats will help protect your brain, in particular.

Beans and legumes: Beans help reduce cholesterol. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber and protein and they’re low-calorie.” They’re also rich in iron, potassium and magnesium. Look for dry beans or low-sodium canned versions so you’re not getting overloaded that way.

Dark leafy greens: These pack a mean punch when it comes to folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. They’re also known to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. You might consider adding kale, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and spinach.

Green tea: Green tea has constituents known for strong anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This compound is likely what gives green tea its apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Research also indicates that the combination of catechins and caffeine in green tea may make boost weight loss efforts.

Eggs: They call it the incredible, edible egg for good reason. Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They’re also loaded with high-quality protein and contain antioxidants known to protect vision and eye health.

Garlic: Though more of an ingredient than a main event, garlic offers a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and fiber. Research indicates that garlic may be effective in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting immune function. What’s more, sulfur-containing compounds in garlic may even play a role in cancer prevention.
Olive oil: A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil should be in everyone’s pantry. That’s because it can reduce inflammation and your risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. It also contains antioxidants such as vitamins E and K, which can protect against cellular damage from oxidative stress.

Just as it’s important to be intentional in your food selection, where you shop matters, too. You can’t beat the freshness of items sourced from local farmers markets and food hubs. (By the time produce is shipped to most grocery stores from halfway around the world or country, it’s not as fresh and has lost some flavor and nutrition.) You can find a directory of farmers markets here. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide customers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.

And whether superfood or not, research shows that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Here’s to super-charging your health with superfoods!

If you have specific questions or concerns about superfoods, please feel free to contact us at (703) 822-5003. We’re here to walk alongside your health journey however we can. Here’s to your health!

Has traditional medicine let you down?

Doctor with stethoscope checking patient heart beatWe see it every day. Many of my patients come to us suffering from conditions or even grappling with the symptoms undiagnosed ones– sometimes for many years – that have not been relieved with conventional medicine. Why does traditional medicine fail to help some patients?

If you ask two different integrative practitioners the same question you might get two different answers. We believe it has to do with the approach to medical problems. In the traditional model, general practitioners are trained to analyze symptoms, come to a diagnosis, and prescribe medication to resolve the issue at hand. These providers often focus on diagnoses for specific areas of the body, often without considering their relationship to the whole.

We see this played out in specialties in western medicine. For instance, the gastroenterologist specializes in intestines; the cardiologist in the cardiovascular system; and the neurologist focuses on the nervous system. Each practitioner tends to stay in their respective lane, which can be detrimental to the patient’s overall health.

At the same time, consumers of health services themselves have adopted this compartmentalized approach. The patient acts as if their body is a motor vehicle and expects the doctor to fix, add, remove, replace, tighten, loosen, adjust or recharge whatever piece needs work so that the machine operates at optimal performance.

We probably don’t have to tell you that a human being is not a machine. We’re an integrated and complete living organism. It’s rare, except in the case of an accident, that a health problem is truly localized. In most cases, the most prominent symptoms may be localized, but it’s generally the entire individual that’s suffering.

This view is problematic and doesn’t serve the patient in the end. That’s because symptoms are not the disease. They’re the body’s way of telling us that something is amiss. Naming those symptoms with a diagnosis and taking medication to relieve them does not heal a person. Conversely, the only way to resolve ongoing health issues is to look at the whole body as a system – not isolated parts of it – and identify the underlying cause(s) of those symptoms.

This is precisely what practitioners of functional medicine are trained to do. Such medical professionals learn how all the organs and systems in our bodies are interconnected. Armed with this training and insight, they can then determine the root cause of a patient’s symptoms. In other words, they focus less on pinning a diagnosis on a patient and more on identifying what the body needs to heal. What’s more, their objective is not just to help their patients heal from specific ailments, but to enjoy an overall healthier lifestyle.

In contrast, modern medicine is reactive and tends to place a focus on managing sickness. Today, if a patient exhibits hypertension, he or she will generally be prescribed a drug to lower it. Similarly, a patient with high cholesterol will be prescribed statins. A type 2 diabetic would be advised to take Metformin or the like. Unfortunately, most modern providers don’t have the foresight to ask: “Why is this patient exhibiting this symptom now?” or “What has changed to cause these symptoms to develop?” What results is often a localized intervention that does little or nothing to address the deep-rooted cause of the illness.

Finally, one of the biggest shortfalls of traditional medicine is that the patient is not really at the center of their care. They need to feel some agency. For instance, a doctor may talk to them about a healthy diet or getting enough exercise, but this advice is so generalized and so vague the patient likely won’t make any lifestyle modifications. Even in situations where diet and exercise can really move the needle, few doctors offer specific dietary recommendations and even fewer will refer the patient to a nutritionist. At best, some providers may advise their patients to modify their diet and exercise regularly before going the pharmaceutical route, but they are few and far between. Therefore, the patient is not given the responsibility for taking the situation into their own hands.

On that note, we’re flipping the script here at Proactive Wellness Centers with integrative medicine. This is medical care that puts the patient at the center of treatment. It’s an approach that tries to consider and address the full range of physical, social, emotional, environmental, and even spiritual reasons for illness. In short, integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances.

If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers, that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003and breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re closer to living a fuller life.

The power of meditation

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” ―Sydney J. Harris

I51356326_Mt’s no secret that reducing your stress levels can improve your health and well-being. We know what you’re thinking: Easier said than done. Right? What exactly can you do to significantly reduce stress — and is it even possible?

Meditation is a powerful way to reduce stress, anxiety and improve your overall health and well-being. It might be something you have considered or maybe you’ve never pictured yourself doing it. Some people think it’s a practice only relegated to gurus and people from eastern traditions. Neither is true. Meditation is accessible and can be adapted by anyone, anywhere. It’s really just focusing your thoughts.

Here are some steps that can help you become a meditating master:

  1. Set a schedule: When meditating, it is important to set aside a specific time just for this purpose. Make it a priority.
  2. Make yourself comfortable: If your body isn’t comfortable, it’s going to be extremely difficult to focus your thoughts on anything else. Find a cozy chair, sit on the floor or even lay on your back, whatever makes you feel most relaxed.
  3. Focus on your breathing: Focusing on your breathing will help you get your heart rate down and relax your body. Take deep breaths! It will also help you keep your thoughts from wandering onto other things. Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. You can also focus on how deeply you can breathe. Speaking of breathing, here are some simple mindful breathing exercises to try.
  4. Get some help: One of the biggest obstacles to using meditation as a health and wellness tool is getting started. Many people feel intimidated and/or worried they won’t be able to figure out how to do it correctly. Try one of these free apps to get started. UCLA Mindful, for example, has a Getting Started section, which can help you understand what mindfulness is, how to do it and how often, and how it can benefit you.
  5. Experiment: The most important thing about meditation is finding out what works best for you. Try to experiment with different techniques and guided meditations, keeping your eyes open or shutting them, being indoors or outdoors. The time of day might also impact the overall experience.

Stress can not only put a damper on your mental well-being but also your physical well-being. Why not try incorporating meditation into your daily schedule?

How to get your insurance company to cover the mold damage in your home

It’s a common situation. Many homeowners discover mold in their homes and either neglect to engage their insurance company or engage them on the terms of the insurance company. Mold and dirt on window

If you have mold damage, you must notify your insurance company about the damages.

But in doing so, you need to do this smartly. You may have a few questions about what is covered. Below are statements that are true for most policies (although some discrepancies may apply). Generally:

  • Storm damage is covered.
  • Broken pipes are covered.
  • Damage due to an accidental case like you left the water running in the bathtub and it overflowed onto the floor, ceilings, etc. is covered
  • And in most cases, the resulting downstream effects of these covered situations are also covered.

However, damage due to owner neglect is generally not covered. Similarly, damage that resulted from normal “wear and tear” is not covered. To make sure mold damage is covered, you have to tie it to a covered event to get it covered.

These steps outline the process.

  1. Get a copy of your policy and read it carefully so you know exactly what is covered and what is not covered.
  2. Do your best to reconstruct a covered event and tie it to the presence of the mold. For example, perhaps there was a storm some weeks/months ago that caused a roof leak that went unnoticed, but now you can see it. Or there may have been a storm that opened a leak into the basement
  3. When reconstructing, you have to avoid having the insurance company classify the situation as owner neglect or normal wear and tear, so again, refer to point #2.

There is no magic but with some awareness of what is covered is what is not covered and some good detective work and a good memory, you may be able to reconstruct a scenario that meets the insurance company requirements for coverage. Even if you don’t get 100% coverage, you may get partial coverage if they determine that some percentage of the issue was caused by the storm, but you failed to mitigate so they apportion some of the damage to you. You are still generally ahead of the curve if you can even get a partial determination of coverage.

Mold, too, can have an ongoing effect on your health, especially on lung health and allergies. If you’re experiencing signs of chronic illness or not feeling optimal, we’re here to help. Visit our website to learn more about our approach and treatment options:

Are you sabotaging your gut health?

50763936 - woman blending vegetables“All disease begins in the gut.”

This is a quote attributed to the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates nearly 2,500 years ago. Well, he wasn’t far off. With every food and lifestyle choice, we’re either feeding disease or fighting it!

On that note, are you helping or hurting your microbiome? As you look to make some changes in 2022, be sure you’re not jeopardizing your gut health. Hundreds of species of bacteria reside in your gut. Some of them are friendly, while others are not. Your body is constantly trying to keep itself in balance so that it can function at an optimal level.

That said, if you’re concerned with gut health (as you should be) here are 10 habits you may want to reconsider:

1. Thinking fermented foods are the only means to support your gut through food.

Move over kimchi —there’s more to the story than fermented foods to keep the good bacteria happy. For example, functional medicine doctors recommend eating cruciferous vegetables to promote gut health. They’re known to support digestion and can even help with bloating. So maybe toss some arugula in your morning smoothie.

2. Using a less-than-ideal probiotic.

With so many probiotics on the market, you might not know where to turn. When in doubt keep in mind that experts recommend selecting a probiotic with targeted strains, each of which performs a different function in the gut. Think: combatting bloating, supporting digestion and regularity, and promoting a healthy weight.

3. Eating when stressed.

You likely know the expression “eating your feelings.” Our emotional state while we’re eating can actually affect digestion and nutrient absorption. When we eat in a state of fight-or-flight, this can then cause that food to sit in the gut for longer. While it’s not always possible to feel completely serene when eating, it’s worth trying to consume meals mindfully when we can. That means turning the TV off and putting your phone away. Also, try to chew each bite and truly enjoy the food.

4. Having a sweet tooth.

If your diet includes only processed foods, your overall health will suffer but your gut will be the hardest hit. Eating food products that are high in sugar can send your gut into an imbalance. This poor condition can lead to excessive sugar cravings that can cause inflammation in the body. And inflammation leads to disease, so you can see why it’s a dangerous proposition to eat a lot of sweets all the time.

5. Not drinking enough water.

You enjoy your morning latte, but do you make a point to get in enough water, too?

Water is important for your overall health. Drinking a good amount of water at regular intervals aids digestion improves skin as well as regulates bowel movements. Make a point to drink half your body weight in ounces and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Herbal teas are hydrating, too.

6. Leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Exercise is very important for a fit and healthy body. Breaking a sweat is not only good for losing weight but also improves heart health and blood circulation in the body. Any form of physical activity — from walking to lifting weights— causes movement in the body, which is also good for the gut.

7. Abusing alcohol.

Drinking too much alcohol regularly leads to an imbalance in the gut bacteria. Drinking moderately and occasionally is preferable to ensure you keep the good bacteria happy and fend off disease. Cheers to that!

8. Not maintaining a healthy sleep routine.

An irregular sleep cycle leads to severe problems like constant fatigue, irritation as well as acidity. Not maintaining a healthy sleep cycle puts a strain on your body and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.

9. Taking antibiotics too often.

Antibiotics are necessary and important medicines used to treat infections and diseases caused by bacteria. They work by either killing bacteria or preventing them from multiplying and have saved millions of lives since their introduction.

However, one of their drawbacks is that they affect both good and bad bacteria. It’s known that a single antibiotic treatment can lead to harmful changes in the composition and diversity of the gut flora. Read: Your stomach might not be happy for some time.

10. You smoke cigarettes.

You might not think your smoking habit would have far-reaching effects beyond increasing your risk of cancer, but you’d be wrong. Smoking causes harm to nearly every organ in the body, including your stomach.

Cigarette smoking is also one of the most important environmental risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease. Worse yet, smokers are twice as likely to have Crohn’s disease, a common type of inflammatory bowel disease, compared to non-smokers.

The good news? The damage is not irreversible. In one study, smoking cessation increased gut flora diversity, which is a marker of a healthy gut.

If you have specific questions or concerns about gut health, please feel free to contact us at (703) 822-5003. We’re here to walk alongside your health journey however we can.

Mindfulness – make it a daily habit

There’s no doubt about it: Mindfulness can be a powerful health and wellness tool. After all, most people want to feel happier, healthier and less stressed. And mindfulness is more accessible than ever before. There are a ton of apps, like Calm and Headspace, that can help you bring mindfulness into your daily practice. More and more workplaces are also focusing on mindfulness and wellness practices, as well. It’s easier now than ever to hone this skill, and all it takes is a few minutes a day to get results. Working woman thinking about solution

But if you’re new to mindfulness and meditation or if you don’t love traditional therapy practices, it can be a little overwhelming to dive into an app or program. That’s ok! There are lots of other ways to re-center and refocus that don’t require a lot of time or effort. Here are a few you might try:

Be more present: Do you find yourself zoning out and looking at your phone during in-person conversations with a friend? Or maybe you feel so anxious and overwhelmed, it can be difficult to focus on the tasks at hand.

We’ve all been there. That’s called phubbing and it can harm relationships. Challenge yourself to keep your device in your pocket and maintain eye contact during the exchange. Your friend will appreciate your undivided attention and return the favor. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do. Trying limiting the number of times you multitask in your daily life, especially when you’re communicating with friends and loved ones, who deserve your undivided attention.

Create: Science tells us that engaging in activities that require the use of the right side of the brain can help us tap into creativity and innovation we didn’t know we had. For example, the mere act of coloring in a coloring book designed for adults can be a way to detach healthily and unplug from life’s stressors. The same goes for other arts and crafts pursuits, like sewing, knitting, jewelry making, etc. Find what speaks to you and carve out space for it when you can.

Sleep: There’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep — and the research backs it. It’s well known that the most successful people make a point to get more shuteye. They also tend to be more patient and understanding with their friends and family. If you struggle with falling asleep right away, you might consider creating a calming bedtime ritual that includes guided meditation or listening to some calming music before bedtime. Talk to your physician about getting a better night’s sleep. Sleep tracking devices and apps can help you make see patterns and tweak them as necessary for optimal sleep.

Try meditation. It may seem mysterious, but it’s quite simple. And research suggests that there’s a whole bunch of benefits to meditating regularly. You can start meditation by just sitting in silence for 5 minutes a day. During this time, try to focus on your breathing. It can be tough to tune out all the thoughts swirling around our heads, but by focusing on inhaling and exhaling, you can start to clear your mind. Meditation takes practice, however, so don’t worry if thoughts if you can’t quiet all the thoughts in your mind. Check out this guide to getting started, too.

Mindfulness may seem trendy, but the truth is, it’s been around for thousands of years. And people need it more than ever with the pandemic weighing heavily on a lot of us.